BloombergNEF Report Reveals Inflation Reduction Act’s Limited Impact on US Net Zero Prospects


In a comprehensive study unveiled today by BloombergNEF (BNEF), it has been disclosed that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)’s efforts to drive the United States towards net zero emissions are commendable but fall short of the mark. While the Act has propelled advancements in renewables, carbon capture, and electrification, the report underscores the necessity for more extensive measures to achieve the US’s ambitious net-zero target. According to the New Energy Outlook: US report, the transition to a net zero economy by 2050 presents a remarkable investment opportunity worth $30 trillion in the country’s energy system.


Published by the research firm BloombergNEF (BNEF), the report meticulously outlines a pathway to attain net zero emissions by 2050 through the adoption of the most cost-effective technologies. This path termed the Net Zero Scenario (NZS), is presented alongside two alternative scenarios: a Policy Scenario evaluating the impact of crucial provisions within the IRA on decarbonization, and an Economic Transition Scenario (ETS) that prioritizes affordable energy technologies with limited consideration for climate objectives.

Cleaning up the power sector and electrification are key to delivering decarbonization

The power sector, a significant contributor to carbon emissions in the US, has demonstrated notable progress in decarbonization. However, a more rapid and extensive transformation is required for the US to realize its net zero aspirations. BNEF’s comprehensive modeling emphasizes that the optimal approach to emissions reduction involves substantial investments in wind and solar power, alongside low-carbon dispatchable electricity solutions. In the envisioned Net Zero Scenario, wind and solar installations are projected to reach 3,292 gigawatts by 2050, a substantial increase from the 288 gigawatts recorded in 2022. Notably, solar capacity is estimated to hit 2,065 gigawatts, encompassing both rooftop installations and large-scale projects.

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Throughout all scenarios, the report predicts the phasing out of coal generation by the 2030s. Despite this, natural gas continues to play a role in the power grid, albeit with an emphasis on carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the Net Zero Scenario. The Policy Scenario highlights the cost-competitiveness of gas generation paired with CCS by 2028, a trend that, if sustained through 2050, could significantly offset emissions.

Tara Narayanan, Senior Associate for US Power Markets at BNEF, underscores the importance of addressing natural gas emissions, noting, “As cleaner power becomes key to decarbonizing everything else, the US must address its love affair with gas. Carbon capture could be a solution to emissions from natural gas if the subsidies are extended rather than being phased out just when the technology starts to become competitive”.

In the Net Zero Scenario, the swift electrification of economic sectors doubles 2050’s power consumption to 8,660TWh from 2021’s 3,946TWh. Conversely, the Policy and Economic Transition Scenarios experience more modest growth at 44% and 38% respectively. As power systems decarbonize, emission reductions are cascaded through electrification across sectors in all scenarios.

Mixed Results from Incentives

The report outlines the US’ allocation of $369 billion from the IRA to combat climate change and bolster domestic industries. BNEF’s analysis incorporates tax credits and subsidies for various clean technologies, accounting for half of the allocated funds. This support is also anticipated to catalyze additional investments from private entities.

The Policy Scenario, leveraging new tax credits for electric vehicles and carbon capture, demonstrates potential emissions reductions of 9% by 2050. The emphasis on carbon capture technologies could lead to the annual capture of millions of metric tons of CO2 emissions. However, the report indicates that despite the focus on hydrogen and carbon capture incentives, the Act’s impact on industrial emissions remains restrained due to factors such as higher installation costs for hydrogen-based solutions.

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Despite hydrogen and carbon capture subsidies, the IRA’s effect on industrial emissions remains restrained, with only modest CCS integration in petrochemicals. Although the Act offers significant incentives for clean hydrogen production and garners considerable attention from commerce and government, BNEF anticipates limited adoption in the Policy Scenario within heavy industries, primarily due to hydrogen’s elevated installation and operational expenses. Ultimately, achieving industrial decarbonization in the US leans more towards electrification and fossil fuels coupled with CCS than on hydrogen.

Insufficient Progress Towards Net Zero by 2050

Despite the commendable efforts initiated by the IRA, the report cautions that the envisaged incentives and policies fall short of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Clearer and more stringent decarbonization measures are deemed imperative for realizing the US’s climate objectives. Tom Rowlands-Rees, Head of North America Research for BloombergNEF, states, “The IRA has dangled some very attractive carrots that will get the economy moving, but to make it move fast enough, the US will need a few more sticks.”

A Vast Investment Opportunity for Energy Transition

The Net Zero Scenario presents a substantial $30 trillion investment prospect across the US energy landscape from 2022 to 2050, surpassing the $22 trillion baseline of the Economic Transition Scenario by a third. Accelerated investments in both supply- and demand-side strategies are imperative to hasten the adoption of low-carbon technologies and sustain this commitment over decades. Achieving the net zero targets demands a rapid upswing in investments within the next ten years, escalating from the $141 billion allocated to energy transition technologies in 2022 to a cumulative expenditure nearing $10 trillion by 2032, facilitating swift emission reduction.

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Electric vehicle purchases, pivotal for the transition, are anticipated to drive roughly half of the required funding through 2050. Additionally, investment in power grid enhancements is identified as a critical enabler for achieving net zero emissions. The report estimates a potential requirement of $3.8 trillion for system reinforcements, new connections, and asset replacements. Concurrently, approximately $5.6 trillion in investment in low-carbon power sources is projected over the same period.

While the IRA’s financial support constitutes a significant initial step, its efficacy in bridging the financing gap hinges on private sector engagement. Derrick Flakoll, Policy Associate for North America at BloombergNEF, underscores the Act’s potential, stating, “The IRA is a multibillion-dollar down-payment on decarbonization, but it, and other policies, will need to stimulate trillions in investment to reach net zero.”

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